(Almost) According to Delia: the Sponge Cake

It’s a classic, is the humble Sponge. The basic recipe, for a simple yet delicious cake, from which all others are simply variations. If you know a good recipe for a Sponge, you’re set for life when it comes to cakes.

When I was allowed to bake unaccompanied (I have a feeling my mother didn’t know. Or my dad was the one in charge that day and he was out hedging, probably), the first recipe I remember using was one of Delia’s, from her How to Cook series. I had a habit then, as now when I can, of adding in all sorts of sweet and sickly extras (although, I never tried all-sorts in my cakes). Terribly sweet-toothed as a child. Less so now, after the no-sugar experiments.

But anyway. The humble Sponge Cake. Light, delicate, and extremely versatile. This one, as requested by Mark, has fewer changes made: the only important deviation was switching out the stated vanilla for some Sicilian lemon. I’m not sure how this has been able to happen but my pantry has been allowed to run out of vanilla. So I had to substitute quickly. And with my planned toppings of raspberry and mango (if it will ripen in the next few hours, please!) I figured lemon would go nicely.

As always, the preferred size tin is smaller than my smallest, which is a 9″ diameter one; Delia would prefer you use a 7″ one. Mine might turn out to be a one-layer cake, slathered in whipped cream and topped with the aforementioned fruits.Oh well!

The mango did not ripen in time...

The mango did not ripen in time…

Ingredients:

115g/4oz self-raising flour (actually, I used plain)

1 level tsp baking powder (mine was heaped, because of the flour)

115g/4oz spreadable butter

115g/4oz golden caster sugar (again, I used what was in my cupboard, which was ordinary caster)

2 large eggs (I think mine were small, which might explain the need for a little milk)

1 tsp vanilla essence (like I said, I used Sicilian lemon)

Jam and/or whipped cream to sandwich

How to Make:

Pre-heat the oven to 170C/Gas Mark 3 and grease and line your tin. If you’ve got the little ones, you’ll need two. Otherwise, one will do.

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, then add in the other ingredients. If you’ve got a food processor, use that until it’s a creamy consistency. If you don’t, you’re in good company: I don’t either. We need to apply a little old-fashioned elbow-grease and mix with a wooden spoon until it reaches the proper cake-batter consistency. If, like me, you find it’s a bit hard-going, you might benefit from the addition of a splash of milk. Not too much!

Pour into the tin or tins and pop in the oven for about half an hour. Allow to cool on a wire-rack and decorate as desired. Traditionally, one sandwiches the two halves together with jam (strawberry or raspberry) and whipped cream, if you’re feeling decadent. If you used a single large tin, you might decide that it would be a bit thin to slice in two, in which case one layer, lots of topping!

Victoria Sponge

It occurs to me that it is some time since I last offered up a sacrifice to the Goddess of Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice.

Largely this is because the last few cakes baked in this Hall were made by Mark, the Mountain King. As we recently saw on Bake-Off, men can be fantastic bakers, and Mark’s Victorias have been no exception. Most delicious. And filled with cream and berries. Clotted cream works particularly well.

Anyway, he’s been using the recipe over on BBC Good Food as his base. And then adding things like orange and lemon extracts (works wonderfully) and decorating with glace icing.

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So.

200g each of sugar, flour and butter

4 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp milk.

Tip it all into a bowl and beat into a batter. Split between two 8” tins and back for c.20 mins at 190C (170C for fan-ovens)/gas mark 5, until nice and golden and spongey to touch. But you know that instruction already, don’t you?

Allow to cool and sandwich together with the filling of your choice. Like I say, carefully beaten clotted cream (just to soften; DO NOT WHISK), with raspberries and/or strawberries is particularly tasty.

Try not to eat all at once.

Potential Cake #2

I wasn’t supposed to talk about weddings today. Well yesterday. But me and the Real World? We speak, but only sometimes. I’m not always sure which day it is.

Which is probably part of the reason why I’m being a tad slow with my organising of the Big Day.  It just seems so far away. Months, in fact. Still need a dress, though…And pretty much everything.

But anyway.

Up today is another nice, simple recipe. It’s the 2, 4, 6, 8 cake.

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2 eggs

4oz butter

6oz sugar

8oz self-raising flour

Enough milk or water to make the batter suitably liquid

And it works the same way as any sensible sponge. Cream together the butter and sugar, add the eggs, stir in sieved flour and mix. Add milk or water as required.

Bake in a moderate oven for approx. 45 minutes.

Decorate to taste. Mark asked me to make a Victoria sponge – hence the cream and jam – but it wasn’t quite deep enough to cut in two.

I reckon it requires a splish of vanilla or maybe some lemon juice. And probably some slices of fruit rather than jam.

Also – while it’s still warm, cut a slice and have it with ice cream. Very tasty.

Christmas Cake for the Disorganised

I think I promised this recipe for a simple Christmas cake, which doesn’t really need months of maturing and weekly brandy feeds, way back on Stir-Up Sunday, when you’re supposed to bake cakes and puddings for Christmas.

If, like me, you hadn’t the time, inclination, or both, back then, or just thought that it was too early to think about Christmas, here’s a recipe for that cake you meant to bake. Now that we’re, you know, in the last few days before Christmas.

What you need to do is easy. Put whatever dried fruits and candied peel that you like into a bowl. I don’t mind if you don’t like vast quantities of fruit in a cake – my fiance doesn’t, either. He doesn’t like dried grapes, which is more annoying. So, yes. Choose your fruits and amounts according to taste. Pour a little (or a lot; your choice) brandy into the bowl and let the fruits soak it up greedily. Traditionally you leave them to soak overnight, but I’m presuming you’re not that organised. I know I’m not usually. Even when I plan when I’m baking my cake. Half an hour’s fine. So’s 5 minutes. It’ll all go into the cake mix anyway.

Lay your hands on a simple sponge recipe/grab a sponge mix from the supermarket. The first time I made this cake, I used a Victoria sponge recipe. Today, I used one of Sainsbury’s Hallowe’en recipes, for a chocolate orange spider-web cake. I’ve just adapted it a bit.

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So, I had:

125g butter (I don’t care what Sainsbury’s says, I’m not using something called “baking spread” in my cake.)

125g light brown sugar. I didn’t have caster sugar.

2 tbsps milk

2 large-ish eggs

125g plain flour plus 1 tsp baking powder

40g white creme brulee chocolate powder. I’ve been saving it specially.

A bowl of dried fruits in brandy.

And the steps for making goes something like this… Mix together in order, starting by creaming together the butter and sugar, then folding in the rest.

Stick in a previously greased and lined tin and shove in the oven at 180C until it looks about ready. Half an hour or so should do it.

The trick is in using a recipe you know will give you a decent-sized cake. As you can probably see, mine’s a bit thin. Probably needed double the recipe. Never mind. Cake’s cake. I’m not fussy, I’m not proud. Or a smaller cake tin. Meh.